Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why Leaves Change In The Fall

Why Leaves Change
Every autumn we revel in the beauty of the fall colors. The mixture of red, purple, orange and yellow is the result of chemical processes that take place in the tree as the seasons change from summer to winter.

During the spring and summer the leaves have served as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree's growth are manufactured. This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This extraordinary chemical absorbs from sunlight the energy that is used in transforming carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch.

Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments, carotenes and xanthophyll pigments which, for example, give the orange color to a carrot. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring.

Chlorophyll Breaks Down

But in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.

At the same time, other chemical changes may occur, which form additional colors through the development of red anthocyanin pigments. Some mixtures give rise to the reddish and purplish fall colors of trees such as dogwoods and sumacs, while others give the sugar maple its brilliant orange.

The autumn foliage of some trees shows only yellow colors. Others, like many oaks, display mostly browns. All these colors are due to the mixing of varying amounts of the chlorophyll residue and other pigments in the leaf during the fall season.

Other Changes Take Place

As the fall colors appear, other changes are taking place. At the point where the stem of the leaf is attached to the tree, a special layer of cells develops and gradually severs the tissues that support the leaf. At the same time, the tree seals the cut, so that when the leaf is finally blown off by the wind or falls from its own weight, it leaves behind a leaf scar.

Most of the broad-leaved trees in the North shed their leaves in the fall. However, the dead brown leaves of the oaks and a few other species may stay on the tree until growth starts again in the spring. In the South, where the winters are mild, some of the broad-leaved trees are evergreen; that is, the leaves stay on the trees during winter and keep their green color.

Only Some Trees Lose Leaves

Most of the conifers -- pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks, cedars, etc. -- are evergreen in both the North and South. The needle- or scale-like leaves remain green or greenish the year round, and individual leaves may stay on for two to four years or more.

Weather Affects Color Intensity

Temperature, light, and water supply have an influence on the degree and the duration of fall color. Low temperatures above freezing will favor anthocyanin formation, producing bright reds in maples. However, early frost will weaken the brilliant red color. Rainy and/or overcast days tend to increase the intensity of fall colors. The best time to enjoy the autumn color would be on a clear, dry and cool (not freezing) day.

Enjoy the color; it only occurs for a brief period each fall.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Colors Report For The GSMNP

September 28, 2012

Almost overnight, fall colors are showing up all over the Great Smoky Mountains. At the lower elevations, early changers like black gum, dogwood, Virginia creeper, sumac, and sourwood are displaying rich reds. At the mid elevations, yellow buckeyes are shifting to gold while yellow birch, American beech, and some maples are showing good color.

At the highest elevations, fall has arrived. American mountain-ash has changed to orange or yellow and witch-hobble has gone to burgundy. Mountain maple and berry bushes are also turning. The peak of color at the high elevations should last into the first week of October.

At the lower and mid elevations fall color is likely to peak in late October or early November.

For the most part, 2012 has been a wet year in the Smokies and the deciduous trees appear to be holding onto their leaves quite well. During drought years some trees have already lost many of their leaves by the end of September. Recent rain showers should improve the chances of an extended color season this year.

Recommended hikes include Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, Road Prong, Thomas Divide, Mt. Cammerer Tower, and Gregory Bald. Good drives are the Blue Ridge Parkway, Balsam Mountain Road, and Clingmans Dome Road.

By : The Great Smoky Mountain Association

Waterfall Byway ... North Carolina Scenic Mountain Drive

Follow the winding Waterfall Byway west along U.S. 64 beginning at the intersection with N.C. 215, north of Rosman in Transylvania County. This byway earns its name from the 200 waterfalls that surround the route. In fact, the county, in which the route begins, is known as the ‘Land of Waterfalls’ for the many waterfalls and trout streams in the area.

Cross the French Broad River, whose Cherokee name means “racing waters,” near Rosman at the beginning of the route. It is about seven miles to the curve where U.S. 64 crosses the Toxaway River at Toxaway Falls (pictured here) on the left and Lake Toxaway to the right. Do not park on the shoulder of the road; it is unsafe for both motorists and pedestrians. Local merchants have provided some parking so that you may view the falls. From Toxaway it is about three miles into the Sapphire Valley resort area. Pass by Lakes Fairfield and Sapphire, both privately owned, before crossing the Horse Pasture River, located about 1.5 miles east of Cashiers.

The town of Cashiers, located at the intersection with N.C. 107, is about 10 miles from Toxaway Falls. Cashiers (pronounced “Cash-ers” by locals) is one of the oldest resort communities settled by Low Country South Carolinians who wanted to get away from the coastal summer heat and humidity. South Carolina Governor and Confederate General Wade Hampton’s summer home, “High Hampton,” was located south of Cashiers and is still a favored resort area. The headwaters of the Chatooga River are within the town’s limits to the west.

From Cashiers it is four miles to Cowee Gap. From the gap, at the head waters of the Cullasaja River, it is eight winding miles to the town of Highlands, the highest incorporated community on the east coast. Follow U.S. 64 through this old resort town.
Founded in 1875, Highlands was located here because it lies at the intersection of lines formed from Chicago to Savannah and from Baltimore to New Orleans. Highlands was designed by Charles Hutchins and Samuel T. Kelsey of Kansas, who also designed the resort community of Linville.

Cross Lake Sequayah on the outskirts of Highlands. Two miles west of Highlands pass by the 120-foot drop of Bridal Veil Falls. The water from this fall flows into the Cullasaja River to the south. Use the provided parking area (just west of the falls) to enjoy its beauty from either side or underneath where the old highway ran.

Dry Falls, located about one mile west of Bridal Veil, is on the left. This fall, on the Cullasaja River, is so named because you can walk underneath the roaring water and not get wet. The U.S. Forest Service has developed a parking area for visitors to explore and enjoy this waterfall.
Enter the Cullasaja Gorge six miles west of Dry Falls. The gorge is formed by the Cullasaja River as it flows west into the Little Tennessee River. Note that the United States Forest Service has designated a portion of this route as the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. About four miles from Dry Falls are the Cullasaja Falls. Located on the left heading west, this impressive cascade drops 310 feet in one-half mile. The drop may be difficult to see, so look carefully behind the trees far below. While in the Cullasaja Gorge you will be able to catch glimpses of the Cullasaja River below as it winds its way west. Also, enjoy the views of the Smoky Mountains and the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests while looking for falcons in the trees along the gorge’s cliffs. From the Cullasaja Falls, it is another two miles to the community of Gneiss, named for the metamorphic rock that abounds in this area.

From Gneiss it is about five miles to the community of Cullasaja where the gorge ends. From there it is another 2.5 miles to the U.S. 23/441 interchange with U.S. 64 in Franklin. Franklin is best known for the treaty council held here between Sir Alexander Cuming and the Cherokee Indians in 1730. In 1761 the Cherokee were defeated by a force of whites, Chickasaws and Creeks. A mound in town marks the site of an early Indian village, Nikwasi.

Follow U.S. 23/441 South and U.S. 64 about 7.5 miles on the divided highway to the community of Cartoogechaye (pronounced “Car-too-gi-chay”). The mountains nearby are part of the Nantahala Mountain range in the Nantahala National Forest. Approximately four miles west, cross Winding Stair Gap, one of the early western passages along the Appalachian Trail. From here it is another two miles to the community of Rainbow Springs. It is 1.7 miles to Black Gap on the Clay and Macon county line.

While driving the 10 miles along the ridge crests of the Chunky Gal Mountains, enjoy the occasional scenic overlooks. Indian lore has it that a chunky maiden from nearby ran away to get married without her father’s permission. The dismayed thinner maidens of her tribe gave her the name ‘Chunky Gal.’
From the community of Shooting Creek it is about 8.5 miles to the town of Hayesville. About four miles east of Hayesville pass by Lake Chatuga, known as the “Crown Jewel” of the Tennessee Valley Authority lakes. The water is part of the Hiawasee River. Now the Clay County seat, Hayesville was named in 1891 for the county’s founder. Located in town is the site of Fort Hembree, one of the gathering places for the Cherokee who were forced to leave this part of the country for Oklahoma on what is known as the “Trail of Tears.”

About seven miles west of Hayesville, turn left onto Settawig Rd. (S.R. 1135) and follow it for 2.5 miles towards Brasstown. While in Brasstown visit the John C. Campbell Folk School, where craftsmen learn trades such as pottery, weaving and blacksmithing. From Settawig Rd. turn right onto Phillips Rd. (S.R. 1100) for one tenth of a mile to Brasstown Rd. (S.R. 1134). Turn left and follow Brasstown Rd. for three-tenths of a mile then turn right onto Cheringhelli Rd. (S.R. 1558). Follow Cheringhelli Rd. for 6.5 miles where the route ends in Murphy at the intersection with US 19/129 Bypass.

Murphy is the site of Fort Butler, a frontier fort in the early 1800s and a temporary stockade for the Cherokee who were on the “Trail of Tears.” Located at the junction of the Hiawasee and Valley Rivers, the town also was an early trading post. It is the southern terminus of the Great Smoky Mountains Railway (GSMR).
Because of winding mountain roads, travel time may be slow along the route. Travel time also may vary with the season.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How to Pack a Backpack

There’s a lot of different packs and a lot of different equipment on the market and every company has their own design and every backpacker has their own likes and dislikes and preferred way to do things. So this is going to be some tips and ways to pack basic backpacking gear into a backpack that’s going to make that process logical per items you need throughout the day versus items you need to have in camp, as well as a way to distribute weight in your pack that’s going to work with the packs suspension and general backpack design. So, we’ll start with the bottom of the pack here and a sleeping bag is an excellent item to stow in the bottom of you backpack. They are typically bulky and heavy but they are usually not the heaviest group of items that you may be carrying so it’s usually a good thing to stow in the bottom here. Some backpacks have a zippered compartment at the bottom that you can easily access, some don’t but either way I would put that sleeping bag in the bottom of my pack. This is going to do a couple of things. One, it’s going to give you a nice sturdy base for setting the pack down as well as building a foundation for all the other items that you’re going to stack on top of it. It’s also something that you’re probably not going to need until you get to camp and go to bed so stowing it away in the bottom where you might not have access to it is fine because you’re probably not going to need it. Ok, now we get into the main pack bag, or the main body of the pack, and the next item is a tent. Tents are also going to be fairly bulky and heavy items. If you are going with someone else and you can split it up so one person gets the fly and one person gets the tent, that’s going to be the best way to pack it. You can distribute weight that way better as well.

In this case.....
 I’m going by myself and I’ve got my one person tent that came in a long, skinny sack that really wasn’t conducive to fitting in my pack in a way that allowed me room to pack other items. So what I did was purchased another stuff sack of a size that I liked better. You could even purchase a compression sack if you wanted to compress it and make it even smaller. So don’t limit yourself to the stuff sack that your product came in and consider other shapes and sizes. I’m going to take my tent which is also a bulky item and isn’t too heavy, maybe two pounds, and stick that in my pack next. It’s going to add to the foundation that the sleeping bag has given me and note that I did not pack the tent poles and tent stakes in with the rest of the tent. Typically the heaviest set of items you’ll be carrying are your food and cookware, water set aside. So here’s my bag of food. You do want to think about putting your heaviest items in this mid, center area of the pack and as close to your back as you can get them. You want those heavier items to be right between your shoulder blades. I’m going to take my food, and I’ve kind of got it packed in a way here that it’s long and skinny, so it’s going to sit right up against my back there. Then I’m going to take two other items that fit in here, and instead of laying them long-ways I’m going to stack them in here vertically. Here’s my sleeping pad and here’s my stove. They’re almost the same shape, this longer, cylindrical shape, so they pack in their nicely and they also weight about the same. I’ve also got a little cup and bowl set that I’m going to stack right on top to give me an even platform to finish out my packing. The last items I have that take up a lot of room are my clothes. I’ve got my bag of clothes here and they’re really lightweight but they’re sort of bulky and I want the up high in the pack because they weigh so little compared to everything else. This does make it a little inaccessible for me to get to my food so I’ve made a point to pack all of my dinner and breakfast meals that I’ll eat in camp in here where I don’t need to access it though out the day and I’ve taken out my snacks and what I’m having for lunch and I can putt hose in another smaller bag in an easier to reach spot. So here’s my clothes and they fit right on top here and take up the rest of the room but they weigh almost nothing so they don’t add weight up high in the pack that might throw me off balance. Now I just have a few remaining items and most of them are small. I am going to take my tent poles and stick them in this side pocket.

It’s long verticality is going to make it fit well against the side of the pack so it makes a safe place to put them where I won’t worry about them getting bent and I’ve got a compression strap that will secure those on there. This pack happens to have some other zippered side pockets here. I would take my tent stakes and put them in whatever outside pocket you have available and in this case I put them opposite the poles so the weight can balance out. I’ve got a few more comfort items here. They are both relating to sleep. I’ve got a soft sheet set that goes with my therm-a-rest and I’ll stick that down here with the sleeping bag, as well as a little pillow. With both of these items, if you don’t have extra space down here, I would say you should go ahead and tuck them in inside the pack someplace and try to fill in some of those nooks and crannies that get created when you put bulkier items in. At the top of the pack here, which is fully loaded, I’ll put a rain jacket or wind jacket. I might need them it during the day and take it off as I go up hill and warm up and then take it off as I go down the other side. So, I’m going to stick it here underneath the hood. That way it’s in a place where I can grab it quickly if I need to or if I’m hiking with someone else I can ask them to grab it out of there pretty fast. Let me get the hood adjusted snug here so that jacket it secure underneath of there. It’s out of the way here with quick and easy access and not taking up more room inside my pack bag. Another important item I have here is my Steripen, I use this to treat my water with, and I’m going to keep that either right here in the top pocket or potentially, this front mesh pocket. This makes it easily accessible for me and it can dry here well.

 If I was carrying a larger water filter with me, Steripen is pretty small, I would keep it up here in the top pocket where it is out of the way and protected but I do have quick and easy access to it so when I get to stream crossings I can pull it out, filter water and stick it back in without having to dig into my pack at all. I’ve got a little bag here with some odds and ends in it. A first aid kit, bear bagging line and headlamp and I’m going to tuck that any place on the outside of the pack I can fit it. I might need to get to the first aid kit in a hurry or I might need my headlamp in a hurry if it’s late in the day. That puts all of those items in a easy to get to spot. They could just as easily have gone in one of the top pockets since they don’t weight very much. That leaves me with a side pocket here for my water and there is plenty of room to tuck some of my snacks for the day in there. I also have an extra water bottle and some other odds and ends that I’m going to eat throughout the day as well that I’ll put in these top pockets. And that’s how to pack a pack. These are some basic tips on how to pack a backpack.

They aren’t going to work for everybody and there’s a lot of different packs and equipment out on the market but hopefully it gives you a better understanding of where to put items in a pack and hopefully it makes your next trip a bit smoother and more comfortable. 

Information from

Fall Color Report From The GSMNP

Fall Color Reports from 2012

September 24
Curry Mountain Trail (Beginning to End) – Some really nice colors on some of the Sourwood, Dogwood, Blueberries, Red Maples, and Sugar Maples.   One Ridge Across Little River  from Curry Mountain Trail (half mile in) has a group of trees with nice colors.

I hiked  up the Appalachian Trail out the Boulevard about 3 miles then back to The Jump Off  then back over to Charlies Bunion and the colors are really starting to pop out all over at 5500 and above , such beautiful colors . I think everyone should get out to see them first hand and to enjoy the great outdoors !

September 22
Nice splashes of fall color are now appearing in the Great Smoky Mountains. At the lower elevations, early changers like black gum, Virginia creeper, and sourwood are showing bright reds. At the mid elevations, yellow buckeyes are shifting toward gold while yellow birch, American beech, and some maples are showing patches of color.

At the highest elevations, fall has arrived. American mountain-ash has changed to orange or yellow and witch-hobble has gone to burgundy. The peak of color at the high elevations will likely occur around September 24-30.
At the lower and mid elevations fall color is likely to peak in late October or early November.
Wildflowers continue to be spectacular with jewelweed, goldenrod, New York ironweed, and great blue lobelia putting on a brilliant show.

Recommended hikes include Clingmans Dome Tower, Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, Road Prong, Thomas Divide, Mt. Cammerer Tower, and Charlies Bunion. Good drives are the Blue Ridge Parkway, Balsam Mountain Road, and Clingmans Dome Road.
September 19

Although it’s only mid-September, spots and splashes of fall color are beginning to appear in the Great Smoky Mountains. At the lower elevations, early changers like black gum, Virginia creeper, and sourwood are showing bright reds.
At the mid elevations, yellow buckeyes are shifting toward gold while yellow birch, American beech, and some maples are showing hints of color.
At the highest elevations, fall has arrived. American mountain-ash has changed to orange or yellow and witch-hobble has gone to burgundy.
Wildflowers continue to be spectacular with jewelweed, goldenrod, New York ironweed, cardinal flower and great blue lobelia putting on a brilliant show.

Recommended hikes include Clingmans Dome Tower, Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, Road Prong, Thomas Divide, and Charlies Bunion. Good drives are the Blue Ridge Parkway, Balsam Mountain Road, and Clingmans Dome Road.

September 12
Although we’re still in the first half of September, spots and splashes of fall color are beginning to appear in the Great Smoky Mountains. At the lower elevations, early changers like black gum and sourwood are showing some bright reds. At the mid elevations, yellow buckeyes are shifting toward gold while yellow birch, American beech, and some maples have begun their departure from green.

At the highest elevations, early fall has arrived. American mountain-ash is showing orange and yellows and witch-hobble has gone to burgundy.
Wildflowers continue to be spectacular with jewelweed, goldenrod, New York ironweed, cardinal flower and great blue lobelia putting on a brilliant show.

Recommended hikes include Clingmans Dome Tower, Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, Road Prong, Thomas Divide, and Charlies Bunion. Good drives are the Blue Ridge Parkway, Balsam Mountain Road, and Clingmans Dome Road.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Southern Forest Watch to sue Smokies over new backcountry camping fee

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Southern Forest Watch to sue Smokies over new backcountry camping fee : A group called the Southern Forest Watch has recently sent a letter notifying officials at the National Park Service that it intends to file a lawsuit challenging the $4 per-person, per-night, backcountry camping fee approved last March. The letter, sent by Knoxville attorney J. Myers Morton, was mailed to Dale Ditmanson, Great Smoky Mountains National Park superintendent; Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior; Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service; as well as Congressional Representatives and Senators from Tennessee and North Carolina.

A proposal for a new backcountry fee system was announced in July of 2011, and immediately created a firestorm of controversy and debate within the backpacking community.

The Southern Forest Watch group argues that the backcountry camping fee is illegal under several federal statutes, including the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, and intends to file the lawsuit after the fee goes into effect in early 2013.

You can read the full document by clicking here.

What are your thoughts? Is this a relevant lawsuit, or a waste of taxpayer dollars?


Over 6,000 Ft. Hikes In The Great Smoky Mountains

1. Southwest of Newfound Gap (Clingman’s Dome and Mt. Collins )

Clingman's Dome (6643 feet) is a popular site for visitors by automobile and is reached by the 7-mile Clingman’s Dome Road, which connects Newfound Gap on US-441 (between Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN) to the Clingman’s Dome Parking Area. Visitors may then ascend a paved walkway to the summit and tower of Clingman’s Dome. (This is not an approved route for the South Beyond 6000 Program).
Mt. Collins (6188 feet) is located on the Appalachian Trail about 4.7 miles from Newfound Gap and 3.0 miles from Clingman’s Dome.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

•Newfound Gap to Clingman’s Dome: The most common route is the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Clingman’s Dome, which is 7.7 miles. It includes both peaks, and rises from 5000 feet to 6643 feet. Experienced hikers may want to return by the same route, totaling between 15 and 16 miles.
•Fork Ridge Trailhead to Clingman’s Dome and Return: The Fork Ridge Trail intersects the Clingman’s Dome Road from the NC side 4.2 miles from Newfound Gap and 3.5 miles from Clingman’s Dome. By crossing the road to the TN side the hiker finds a connector to the Appalachian Trail, which then leads over Mt. Collins to Clingman’s Dome. An acceptable hike of at least 5 miles requires a return to the trailhead.
•Road Prong Trailhead to Clingman’s Dome and Return: On the TN side the Road Prong Trail intersects the Clingman’s Dome Road 1.7 miles south of Newfound Gap. From that point one may access the Appalachian Trail and hike 6 miles over Mt. Collins to Clingman’s Dome, with an alternative of returning.

Clingman's  Dome, 6643
Mt.  Collins, 6188

2. Nearby North of Newfound Gap ( Mt. Le Conte and Mt. Kephart )
Mt. Le Conte (6593 feet) is linked by several trails to Newfound Gap, US 441, and the Cherokee Orchard area near Gatlinburg, TN. Hikers frequently do a loop by ascending one of the trails and descending by another.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

•Newfound Gap to Mt. Le Conte via the Boulevard Trail: From Newfound Gap the Appalachian Trail proceeds northeast 2.7 miles, connecting with the Boulevard Trail that leads 5.3 miles to the Summit of Mt. Le Conte. (*Mt. Le Conte via Boulevard Trail #165)
•Mt. Le Conte via Alum Cave Trail: This trail begins on US-441, 4.6 miles west of Newfound Gap and 8.6 miles east of the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg. It ascends 4.9 miles connecting with the Rainbow Falls Trail 0.1 miles from the lodges at Mt. Le Conte. (* Mt. Le Conte via Boulevard Trail #165)
•Mt. Le Conte via Rainbow Falls Trail: From the Cherokee Orchard Parking Area near Gatlinburg this trail ascends 6.6 miles to the lodges at Mt. Le Conte. (* Mt. Le Conte via Trillium Gap and Rainbow FallsTrails; Mt. Le Conte via Rainbow Falls Trail #198 )
•Bull Head Trail: This trail begins on the Old Sugarlands Trail, 0.4 miles from the Cherokee Orchard Parking Area. It ascends 5.9 miles, where it joins the Rainbow Falls Trail 0.6 mile from the Mt. Le Conte lodges. (* Mt. Le Conte via Rainbow Falls and Bull Head Trails)
•Trillium Gap Trail: From Grotto Falls Parking Area, located 2.0 miles along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail from Cherokee Orchard, the Trillium Gap Trail rises 6.7 miles to the lodges at Mt. Le Conte. (*Mt. Le Conte via Trillium Gap Trail #50, #198)
Mt. Kephart.  The trail to Mt. Kephart (6217 feet) begins on the right side of the Boulevard Trail, a few minutes from where the latter leaves the Appalachian Trail, 2.7miles from Newfound Gap. The summit lies a short distance up this trail, which continues, onto the spectacular overlook called the Jump off.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

•Newfound Gap to Mt. Kephart and Return: Mt. Kephart may be climbed by following the Appalachian Trail north from Newfound Gap 2.7 miles to the Boulevard Trail, then taking the trail to the summit and returning to Newfound Gap.
•Mt. Le Conte via Boulevard and Alum Cave Trails: Hikers can bag two peaks over 6000 feet, Mt. Le Conte and Mt. Kephart, by taking the side trail off Boulevard Trail to climb Mt. Kephart on the way to Mt. Le Conte.
•Charlies Bunion, Mt. Kephart Prong: This popular CMC hike, especially in May for spring flowers, follows the Appalachian Trail by the Boulevard and often includes an option to climb Mt. Kephart.

Mt. LeConte, 6593
Mt.  Kephart, 6217

3. Vicinity of Tri-Corner Knob Shelter (Mt. Sequoyah, Mt. Chapman, Tri-Corner Knob/Mt. Yonaguska, Mark’s Knob, Mt. Guyot, and Old Black)

Tri-Corner Knob Shelter is located on the Appalachian Trail 15.7 miles northeast of Newfound Gap and 15.7 miles from Davenport Gap, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies. It is used by nearly all Beyond South hikers as a base to climb the nearby peaks. Reservations are necessary and can be made by calling the Backcountry Reservation Office at 423-436-1231. Topographical maps are helpful and almost indispensable for climbing these peaks because most of them are not marked in any way and are reached by bushwhacks.
Mt. Sequoyah (6003 feet) is located on the Appalachian Trail 2.6 miles southwest of Tri-Corner Knob and 13.1 miles northeast of Newfound Gap. The summit is in a small cleared area on the west side of the AT.
The Appalachian Trail runs along the flank of Mt. Chapman (6417 feet) 1.4 miles from Tri-Corner Shelter and 14.5 miles from Newfound Gap. When going south, the mountain is located just after a sharp angle to the left (going north, just before a sharp angle to the right). A short, but tough, bushwhack is necessary either up the side or back along the west crest from the angle. A faint man way goes up the west crest of the ridge to the summit. There are several rocky protuberances, but the summit is evident, and the climber will be rewarded with a stunning view toward Mt. Guyot.

Tri-Corner Knob/Mt. Yonaguska (6120 feet) are adjacent to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter and are considered spurs of each other and are of equal height. Tricorner Knob can be ascended from the junction of the Appalachian Trail and the Balsam Mtn. Trail via a bushwhack. The hiker is required to hike either of the two, both of which are bushwhacks. Mt. Yonaguska is located to the north in a gap at 0.8 miles on the Balsam Mountain Trail that goes southeast from the Appalachian Trail just above the Shelter. The hiker must bushwhack to the summit.
Mark’s Knob (6169 feet) is accessed from the same gap as Mt. Yonaguska, 0.8 miles southeast from the Appalachian Trail on the Balsam Mountain Trail. The second peak on Marks Knob is the summit. To the right in the gap is Mt. Hardison, with Mark’s Knob on the other side. The hiker must go around Mt Hardison on the heavily overgrown old Hyatt Ridge Trail. Once past Mt. Hardison the hiker will see Mark’s Knob to the left of the Hyatt Ridge Trail, to be ascended by bushwhack.

Mt. Guyot (6621 feet) is the second highest peak in the Smokies and looms to the right alongside the Appalachian Trail, after a steady climb of about a mile northeast from the Shelter. The hiker should get his bearings on the mountain from a gap on the north side where an old heavily overgrown trail leads up to the first (false) summit. One may ascend that trail to the false summit, which looks like a real summit, and then continue bushwhacking along the ridge to the real summit, which is overgrown but has a benchmark. An alternative is to turn back from the gap southwest about 1/4 mile and then bushwhack directly up the steep side. The hiker should come out in the gap between the two summits, with Mt. Guyot and the benchmark to the right.
Old Black (6370 feet), after a clearing, appears as a low summit to the right if the hiker has started at the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter and continued past Mt.Guyot for about a mile. Reaching the top is a short bushwhack.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

•Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter: On this route the hiker will pass Mt. Sequoyah and have the opportunity to bushwhack up Mt. Chapman. Once at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter the hiker can access the other peaks in the area ( #121)
•Tri-Corner Knob via Snake Den Ridge: A common way of accessing this area is from the Cosby Campground, which is located 2 miles from Cosby, TN. The Snake Den Ridge Trail ascends 5.3 miles to the Appalachian Trail and then 3.7 miles to the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter. En route he may bushwhack up Old Black and Mt. Guyot. Once at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter the hiker can access the other peaks in the area. ( #122, #42)

•Balsam Mountain Trail to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter: The Balsam Mountain Trail begins at Pin Oak Gap on the unpaved Balsam Mountain Road, which goes from Heintooga Ridge Road to Cherokee. The Trail runs 10.1 miles to the Appalachian Trail at the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter. (Note that Balsam Mountain Trail is also a major access to Laurel Gap Shelter, Big Cataloochee, and Luftee Knob) (#123, #250)
•Mt. Guyot and Old Black (via Snake Den Ridge Trail): This rigorous CMC hike, which climbs both peaks, begins and ends at the Cosby Campground. (#109)

Mt. Sequoyah, 6003
Mt. Chapman 6417
Tricorner Knob/Mt. Yonaguska, 6120
Mark's Knob, 6169
MT. Guyot, 6621

4. Vicinity of Laurel Gap Shelter (Big Cataloochee and Luftee Knob)

The Laurel Gap Shelter (reservations required) is located on the Balsam Mountain Trail, 3.8 miles from Balsam Mountain Road and 6.3 miles from the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter. Hikers often overnight here to climb the nearby peaks and also those peaks near the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter.
Big Cataloochee (6155 feet) lies near the junction of the Balsam Mountain Trail and the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail. It can be reached by bushwhacking from the junction across the intervening Balsam Corners Mountain to Big Cataloochee, or better going down Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail, where just beyond a rocky stream bed that crosses the trail, a very steep ridge goes up to the left. Bushwhacking up this ridge will lead to the summit of Big Cataloochee.

The Balsam Mountain Trail passes along the flank of Luftee Knob(6234 feet) about 2.8 miles from the junction with Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail and about 3.2 miles from the junction with the Appalachian Trail. Although Luftee Knob is obvious, hikers often confuse it with adjacent mountains and climb the wrong one. Luftee is a very tough and steep bushwhack. It has two summits, the southern one and less rocky one being the true one. The best way to ascend is from the South, bushwhacking up to the crest of the ridge and following a man way to the summit.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

•Balsam Mountain Trail to Big Cataloochee and Luftee Knob, and return: The Balsam Mountain Trail begins at Pin Oak Gap on the unpaved Balsam Mountain Road, which goes from Heintooga Ridge Road to Cherokee. At 4.1 miles it meets the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail, where the hiker may access Big Cataloochee. About 2.8 miles further on, he may climb Luftee Knob. Returning to the trailhead is a strenuous 16 miles, but one may spend the night at the Laurel Gap Shelter for a shorter two-day hike or continue on to the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter to climb the peaks near there.
•Big Cataloochee via Pretty Hollow Gap and Mt. Sterling Ridge Trails and return: A common access to this area is from the Cataloochee Valley. From the Parking Area at the end of the road, through the Valley, one may ascend by the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail 5.3 miles and then the Mt. Sterling Trail about 3.7 miles to access Big Cataloochee. To return is a strenuous 18 or 19 mile round trip, but one may spend the night at the Laurel Gap Shelter for a shorter two-day hike or continue on to the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter to climb the peaks near there.

Luftee Knob, 6234
Big Catalooche, 6155

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cherohala Skyway & Tellico Area Hiking Trails ( Most Popular )

Type of trail: Hiking & Mountain Biking

Level of difficulty: Easy

Trailhead directions: Turn at FS 345 off Cherohala Skyway TN 165 after milepost 14

Trail Length: 3.2 miles

A smooth gravel track encircles 96 acre Indian Boundary Lake for a hike or beginner bicycle ride of 3.2 miles. Bridges cross streams, and the relatively level trail passes along the shore and through mixed forest, filled with a variety of wildflowers in spring, summer, and fall. There are picnic tables, a swimming beach, a boat launch and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Pets must be leashed or under physical control at all times. A $3 use fee station is located at the parking area.

Type of trail: Hiking

Level of difficulty: Easy

Trailhead directions: TN 165 (Cherohala Skyway) to Tellico River Road (FS 210) and park at Bald River Falls.

Trail Length: 5.6 miles

Hike along the Bald River to its end on FS 126. The entire trail measures 5.6 miles, but you can hike it as a one-way trail then reverse, enjoying the lush forest allow the rocky river. The trail has many walkers in its first mile, with picnic tables along the river. There are also some backpacking campsites along the river. If you plan to hike the entire trail, parking cars at each end requires a loop of roads measuring about 35 miles.

Type of trail: Hiking

Level of difficulty: Easy

Trailhead directions: TN 165 (Cherohala Skyway), about 8.5 miles beyond Indian Boundary Lake. Parking is on the left (north) side of the Skyway at the West Rattlesnake pull-off, with signs marking the trailheads for #87 and #196 at the west end of the parking lot.

Trail Length: 1.3 miles

The first mile of the Falls Branch Trail is easy; a short distance from the start, go to the left where Jeffrey Hell Trail goes to the right. The trail goes down into a gorge, and this part is not as easy. Depending on recent rainfall, it could be too wet to walk down. The trail will cross the streambed in places. Upon arriving, you will be amazed at the magnificent waterfall in the middle of an enchanted forest of ferns, moss, and "hobbit" trees.

Type of trail: Hiking

Level of difficulty: Easy

Trailhead directions: From Tellico Plains, go South on TN 68 past Coker Creek Village to Ironsburg Methodist Church, which is on your right. Take CR 628 which runs alongside the church. At the first Y stay left. At the second Y stay right and drive to the Falls parking and picnic area, about two more miles.

Trail Length: 3.5 miles

Coker Creek is a seven stair step cascade. The trail begins at the parking area, and follows Coker Creek for about 3 miles; it ends at the 19 mile John Muir Trail, marked with white blazes. Recent improvements have been made to this trail.

Type of trail: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Horseback riding, or Drive a vehicle to top (gravel road to top)
Level of difficulty: Easy

Trailhead directions: South of Coker Creek on Rt 68, turn onto CR 624 on your left. You will go over a bridge and see a small brown sign for Buck Bald on your right. The road goes off to the left.
Trail Length: 2 miles

Hike or drive 2 miles to this lovely Bald which has a picnic table (bring your own chairs or a quilt) for a spectacular 360 degree view. Great for dinner and sunset.

BUCK BALD for Horseback Riding
Level of difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on the riders experience
Trailhead directions: From Tellico Plains drive on Hwy 68 past Coker Creek, take Joe Brown Hwy about 4+ miles to the power lines. You can park along the edge of the road. Trailhead is on the right side of road. (You will see a sign marking it but it doesn't say anything about where it will take you.)

The trail we like to ride our horses on goes up to Buck Bald. After leaving the horse trailhead you have to ride about 1/4 mile on the gravel road that leads to Buck Bald. It takes about 1-1/2 hrs to get to the top of Buck Bald. This is a beautiful slow ride on a cool spring or early fall day.
Note - don't go on a hot day as there isn't any place to water your horse.

Type of trail: Hiking, Mountain Biking, and Horseback Riding

Level of difficulty: Easy, Moderate, and Difficult

Trailhead Directions: From Hwy 39: From Tellico Plains, head north on TN 68 to Mecca Pike TN 39, and turn left to head west. After 5.5 miles, a brown and white Forest Service sign marks the access to Starr Mt. Road (FS 297) on the left.
From Hwy 315: From Tellico Plains, head north on TN 68 to Mecca Pike TN 39, and turn left to head west. Turn left in 2 miles where the road splits in Rural Vale, following Reliance Road (TN 315) south. After several miles, a brown and white Forest Service sign marks the access to Starr Mt. at Bullet Creek Road (FS 44) on the right.
Trail Length: various (see table & map below)

Starr Mountain, at 2,500 feet in elevation, provides 14 blazed trails and a scenic wooded backdrop. Four trails (nos. 151, 189, 190, 191) are designated for hiking only, and the others are for horse and hiking. Take your horse to Starr Mountain where 20 miles of trails and a number of Forest Service roads provide short day trips or long overnight rides. Featured trails in the system include Starr Mountain Horse Trail # 120, across the crest of Starr Mountain, or Chestnut Mountain Horse Trail #63 and #104 that wind along the border of Gee Creek Wilderness Area.

Type of trail: Hiking

Level of difficulty: Easy

Trailhead directions: Drive South on Rt 68 a short distance from Tellico Plains until you see a large brown Conasauga Falls sign; turn right here. Drive 2.3 miles, and look for a Forest Service post on your right with #170, the trail number. Turn right here, and drive 1/2 mile to the trailhead.
Trail Length: .8 miles

Conasauga Falls Trail is a gradual grade 3/4 mile hike and the prettiest falls. This trail has been greatly improved and has steps down to the falls now.

Type of trail: Hiking

Level of difficulty: Easy

Trailhead directions: Follow Cherohala Skyway TN 165 across the stateliness into North Carolina, to the parking area on the north side, between mile 8 & 9. (This is approximately 35 miles from Tellico Plains). There is a trailhead info kiosk and a sign "Huckleberry Trailhead" as the trail leads into the woods.

Trail Length: 1.25 miles

The hike to Huckleberry Knob is a leisurely hike along a grassy jeep path, perfect on a hot day, since the elevation brings cooler temperatures. The trail winds through woods, with wildflowers along the path, into the first wide open grassy meadow, called Oak Knob. This is a fine place for a picnic, but continue hiking for big mountain views. Continue through another wooded area, gradually gaining altitude to reach the top of Huckleberry Knob, at 5560 feet, the highest point in the Cheoah Ranger District. The top is flat with lots of places to spread a blanket, while you enjoy the 360 degree mountain panorama.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT)


The Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) is a backcountry hiking trail, measuring 288 miles (480 km) through the Appalachian mountains of the southeastern United States. It is designed for foot travel in the tradition of the Appalachian Trail (AT), but more primitive and solitary alternative for thru-hikers in the Southern Appalachians.
About 55 miles of the BMT runs through Monroe County, crossing into the south end of the county near Buck Bald. It follows close to Waucheesi Mountain and along high ridge lines on the TN/NC state border, descending to the Bald River near Holly Flats and the Tellico River near the Pheasant Field picnic area . It ascends again from there, approaching the Cherohala Skyway at Mud Gap (where there is a parking area and trailhead kiosk) and skirting the highway for about 3 miles. At Beech Gap there is parking and the opportunity for a walk on a gentle section of the trail, perfect for bird watching and chance encounters with wildlife. The trail continues north through the Unicoi Mountains, passes Big Fodderstack and Little Fodderstack. It exits Monroe County for North Carolina near where Highway 129 crosses the Little Tennessee River.
This hiking trail was created and is maintained by the Benton MacKaye Trail Association and is named for Benton MacKaye (rhymes with sky), co-founder of The Wilderness Society, the man whose vision inspired what is today the Appalachian Trail. In the south, he had selected a more westerly route for his Appalachian mountain trail plan, along the western crest of the Blue Ridge - roughly the route followed today by the BMT. Some of the trail's volunteer maintenance crews are locals from Tellico Plains and surrounding communities.

 There are numerous access points and trailheads along the BMT route creating many options for one-way and loop hikes, and several more in combination with local trails. The Benton MacKaye Trail Guide, by Elizabeth Carter and Richard Harris, is sold at the Cherohala Skyway VIsitors Center and other local establishments, and The National Geographic Map #781 of the Cherokee National Forest - Tellico and Ocoee Rivers covers the trail. The Benton MacKaye Trail Association offers sponsored fun hikes and work trips. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Free Entrance to all National Parks on September 29 th

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Free Entrance to all National Parks on September 29th : All 397 national parks will offer free entrance on Saturday, September 29 for National Public Lands Day. The 19th annual event encourages everyone to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Visit for a list of parks and information to help plan your park adventure.

“National Public Lands Day reminds all of us of the vast and diverse nature of America’s open spaces, from small neighborhood parks to large national parks, and the importance of each one,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We are fortunate that more than 600 million acres of public land, including national parks, provide all of us with cherished places where we can go to unwind, recreate, or learn.”

Many people will lend a hand to help the land and spend part of National Public Lands Day volunteering on work projects. More than 170,000 people are expected to plant trees, clean watersheds, remove invasive plants, replace signs, and otherwise beautify 2,000 public sites throughout the country. Visit for more information.

Other Federal agencies offering free admittance on September 29 include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and the U.S. Forest Service.

By : Jeff

Hike To Shuckstack Fire Tower

Directions to Trailhead:

The Shuckstack lookout tower is located on the North Carolina side of the Park. From Bryson City, take NC 28 to Fontana Dam. Drive across the dam and take a right at the fork of the paved road. The trail to Shuckstack begins about 0.6 mile from the dam. To reach the Shuckstack fire tower you'll be following the Appalachian Trail as it heads north into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Trail Description:

The Fontana Dam is the highest dam east of the Rocky Mountains. Towering 480 feet in height, the dam backs water for 30 miles and is a major source of energy for the Tennessee Valley. As you cross the dam, scan the mountains to the north and you should be able to make out the tower in the distance.
Once on the Appalachian Trail, you'll begin a fairly challenging ascent of Twentymile Ridge, as it climbs more than 2100 feet over the next 3.5 miles, with most of that elevation gain coming in the first two-and-a-half miles.
The trail begins to ascend nearly from the start. At around two-and-a-half the trail begins to level considerably, making your hike much easier for the next half mile or so. Then, about a quarter of a mile from the tower, you'll encounter your steepest (but short) climb. Once on Twentymile Ridge, you'll encounter a three-way intersection. The AT is marked with simple white line blazed on the trees, while the path to the tower is marked with a white "T". Take a right here - the tower is only a tenth of a mile from this junction.

The Shuckstack fire tower is actually a small wood and metal building perched atop a winding eighty-foot staircase. The view from the rocks at the bottom of the fire tower is incredible, but the view from atop is much better. As you begin to climb the tower you'll notice that it moves ever so slightly, but don't be alarmed. Wind continuously blows across this ridge, and the tower is made to give a little. At the top you'll be rewarded with a spectacular 360-degree view. The Unicoi Mountains can be seen to the west, the Snowbird and Nantahala Mountains to the south, the Blue Ridge Mountains to the southeast, and the Smokies to the east and north. You'll also be able to make out Fontana Dam and all of the land you covered on your way to the tower.

The historic fire towers of the Great Smoky Mountains region were once used to gain a bird's eye view of the mountains in order to spot forest fires. Though many of the towers have been removed as more modern methods of fire detection have been developed, Shuckstack and three other towers remain in the Smokies.

There's some uncertainty about the future of the Shuckstack Lookout Tower, however. The source of this uncertainty stems from a statement made by park officials:
"Since the use of Shuckstack as part of the radio system has been discontinued, park management will need to make a decision about the need for and future of this tower."

 These days the Shuckstack tower has fallen into disrepair. Several loose steps and a missing railing make the 60-foot climb a little frightening, and those who reach its top find holes and a partially rotted floor. Obviously, the steel tower is in desperate need of restoration.

Hiking up the Appalachian Trail to Shuckstack Fire Tower

Oh No I have been shot ! ( Look at knots for eyes and the cicle mouth and looks like tree was shot )

One of Atti's friends a frog on the trail

Look hard and you will see a old mans face in this tree !

Shuckstack Fire Tower

What a view from inside the fire tower

A view from the fire tower of Fontana Lake

With these views from the fire tower this is well worth the hike !

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wildflower Report In The Great Smoky Mountains

September 18 Wildflower Report from Tom Harrington for The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Maddron Bald (Beginning-Gabes Mountain Trail) – White Snakeroot, Early Goldenrod, Great Lobelia (really nice ones), and White Top Asters.

 Gabes Mountain (Beginning-End) – Mountain Gentian, Early Goldenrod, Black Cohosh, Pink Turtleheads, White Top Aster, White Snakeroot, Pale Jewelweed*, Curtis Aster, Spotted Jewelweed (1), and Great Lobelia. * On two switch backs around two and a half miles from Cosby the Pale Jewelweeds are tremendous – stretching from the trail for a long distance up the side of the ridge – well worth the hike in there to see them – most of the plants are from four to five feet tall.
White Snakeroot 
White Top Asters
Pink Turtleheads
Early Goldenrod

Fall Color Report For The Great Smoky Mountains

September 18 Fall Color Report

Although it’s only mid-September, spots and splashes of fall color are beginning to appear in the Great Smoky Mountains. At the lower elevations, early changers like black gum, Virginia creeper, and sourwood are showing bright reds.

At the mid elevations, yellow buckeyes are shifting toward gold while yellow birch, American beech, and some maples are showing hints of color.

At the highest elevations, fall has arrived. American mountain-ash has changed to orange or yellow and witch-hobble has gone to burgundy.

Wildflowers continue to be spectacular with jewelweed, goldenrod, New York ironweed, cardinal flower and great blue lobelia putting on a brilliant show.

Recommended hikes include Clingmans Dome Tower, Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, Road Prong, Thomas Divide, and Charlies Bunion. Good drives are the Blue Ridge Parkway, Balsam Mountain Road, and Clingmans Dome Road.

Information from : Great Smoky Mountains Association

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Story Of Atti ( My Hiking Buddy )

I have had a lot of people ask about my hiking buddy who rides in the back of my backpack on our hikes through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many hikers we meet think that Atti is a duck but she is actually a platypus. A Webkinz  ( which she is a Google on the Webkinz Site ) that my girls got me one day for my Birthday

Well the story goes like this :

My Daughters (who are twins ) which were at the time this all began was right at 6 years old . I had got them both a google for part of their Christmas presents . One was a white one and the other was a pink one . One day after Christmas it was raining and i started playing with their Googles and was making them talk to them . We all laughed and had a lots of fun but little did i know that they had took a saved their own money and bought me my very own for my birthday . Thus Atti arrived on the scene with me ! So like most adults I thought it was so cute that my daughters had took their own money to get me my very own Google but Atti just sat on my bed like most stuff animals do except my daughters had different plans for Atti . I was going on a over night hike with a couple of buddies that I hike with all the time in the Great Smoky Mountains but this one time they had to both cancel on me but I was already off and I was going anyways . Then my daughters heard that I was going by myself and they got scared that a bear was going to get me while I was hiking in the mountains . So they put Atti in my backpack and told me that I had to take her that she would protect me from any bears . I laughed and my wife laughed even harder and asked if I was going to take her with me and I said like any daddy that loves their daughters with all their hearts I said yes . So that they knew that she actually went with me I took pictures of her all on the trail . And Atti has been with me every since we have hiked all over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park , Cherokee National Forest , Nantahala and Pisqah Forest .

 One time that I went hiking without her and it was just a short hike at Baskins Falls . I was crossing over a stream going up to the cemetery and hit some black ice on the back side of the rock and i fell and broke two ribs. Since then she has always been with me on every hike even the short ones ! She has become my hiking buddy that is always with me no matter what . I even made her a raincoat that she wears when it rains. Over all this time she has become a little celebrity . She has probably had her picture taken over 100 times and from people all over the world from Russia to Australia that had come to the Great Smoky Mountains to hike and enjoy the great outdoors. Now my daughters are both 17 and tell me that I can leave Atti at home and I say never ever will I leave her at home now !

Atti at Rocky Top on way to Thunderhead Mountain

Atti at the top of Chimney Tops

Atti at Gregory Bald

Atti just hanging around at Mt.LeConte

Atti hiking with me Curry Mountain

Atti at Mt.LeConte in the winter snow

The Top 10 Longest Trails in the Southeast

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: The Top 10 Longest Trails in the Southeast: There are some that would argue that the Appalachian Trail is getting a little too crowded. So if you’re in that camp, and maybe looking for a little more solitude, or possibly just some new places to explore, I thought I would present long distance hikers with some other choices in the southeast - some you may not be aware of. The following represents the top 10 longest trails in the southeast:

The Florida Trail: At 1562 miles in length, the Florida Trail is the southeast’s longest trail. As one of only eleven National Scenic Trails in the United States, the Florida Trail traverses through a diverse landscape as it extends from Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida's panhandle to Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida. Along the way it passes through some of the state's most picturesque areas including the Apalachicola, Ocala, and Osceola National Forests, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and several state parks. In addition to the poisonous snakes, panthers and bears, keep a look out for alligators!

Appalachian Trail: Although the A.T. runs for a total of 2179 miles from Georgia to Maine, only a thousand of those miles actually pass through the Southern Appalachians (the section south of Harpers Ferry), thus making it the second longest trail in the southeast. The A.T. arguably offers some of the best hiking in the southeast, passing through places like the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks, Big Bald, Roan Mountain and Mt. Rogers. As a result of its popularity, some of these sections attract a lot of hikers.

Mountains-to-Sea Trail: The Mountains-to-Sea Trail stretches roughly 1,000 miles from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks. Although only 500 miles of footpath are built right now, people can still hike across the state using temporary connectors on back roads and state bike routes. The trail is a showcase for North Carolina’s diverse landscape. Thru-hikers will experience mountains, rugged gorges, small Piedmont farms, coastal swamps, colonial towns, and barrier islands. It climbs both the tallest mountain peak and the highest sand dune in the Eastern United States, passes through three national parks, two national wildlife refuges, three national forests, seven state parks and three lighthouses, including the nations tallest.

Pinhoti National Recreation Trail: The Pinhoti National Recreation Trail is a combination of the Alabama Pinhoti Trail and the Georgia Pinhoti Trail. Its southern terminus is on Flagg Mountain just outside Weogufka, Alabama, and stretches 335 miles to its northern terminus at the intersection with the Benton MacKaye Trail near Ellijay, Georgia. From here hikers have the opportunity of extending their hike all the way to Maine by heading southeast on the Benton MacKaye Trail for roughly 70 miles to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Completed in early 2008, the Pinhoti Trail is characterized by heavily wooded forests, far reaching ridgelines, countless creek crossings and spectacular views. Part of the trail includes dirt and paved roads, but otherwise provides ample solitude.

Benton MacKaye Trail: Nearly 300 miles in length, the Benton MacKaye Trail runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Davenport Gap on the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail passes through some of the most remote backcountry in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, including eight federally designated Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas. For those looking for a large loop hike, you can combine the Benton MacKaye with the Appalachian Trail. From Springer Mountain, the Benton MacKaye heads off in a westerly direction, while the A.T. traverses eastward. The two cross each other again near the Shuckstack Fire Tower in the southern Smokies.

Palmetto Trail: The Palmetto Trail is South Carolina’s mountain-to-sea trail. When completed, the cross-state, multi-use trail will take hikers from Oconee State Park in the western mountains, to its eastern terminus at the intra-coastal waterway at Awendaw Creek. With nearly 290 miles of trail open to the public, roughly two-thirds of the eventual 425-mile Palmetto Trail is now complete. The Palmetto Trail features maritime, sandhill, and piedmont forests, knife-edged mountaintops, and two Revolutionary War battlefields. Some sections of the trail are urban bikeways, greenways and rail-to-trail conversions.

Sheltowee Trace: The Sheltowee Trace is a 269-mile multi-use trail that traverses the length of the Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky. The trail is named in honor of Daniel Boone. Sheltowee, meaning Big Turtle, was the name given to Boone when he was adopted into the Shawnee Indian tribe as the son of the great war chief, Blackfish. Designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1979, the Trace passes through Cave Run Lake, Red River Gorge, Natural Bridge State Park, Laurel River Lake, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park and the Big South Fork National Recreation Area. Along its course hikers will see waterfalls, arches, panoramic ridge-top views and massive sand­stone cliffs.

Cumberland Trail: The Cumberland Trail in east Tennessee follows a line of ridges and gorges along the eastern escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau. When completed, the trail will stretch more than 300 miles from the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park on the Tennessee-Virginia-Kentucky border, to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area just outside Chattanooga. In between it will pass through four Tennessee Wildlife Management Areas, a National Park Wild and Scenic Area, two State Parks, and two protected State Natural Areas. Designated as a Tennessee State Scenic Hiking Trail, hikers have access to numerous waterfalls, scenic overlooks and deep gorges. Right now there are roughly 175 miles of hikeable trails, and it’s estimated that it will take another 8 to 10 years before the entire trail is completed.

Bartram Trail: The Bartram Trail follows the approximate route of naturalist William Bartram who traveled throughout the southeast from 1773 to 1777. During his travels Bartram wrote vivid descriptions of the plants and animals he saw, as well as the Native Americans he encountered. Designated as a National Recreation Trail, the 115-mile Bartram Trail crosses over some of the most scenic mountains in North Carolina and Georgia. Starting from Cheoah Bald in the Nantahala National Forest, hikers will cross over Wayah Bald and Rabun Bald before reaching the southern terminus of the trail in the Chattahoochee National Forest near the Georgia-South Carolina state line. One of the more interesting aspects of the trail is that hikers have the option of canoeing a nine-mile section of the Little Tennessee River, near Franklin, in lieu of walking the nearby roadway here.

Foothills Trail: The Foothills Trail offers an extraordinary opportunity to explore the Appalachian foothills along the GA, NC, and SC border area. The 77-mile trail stretches from Oconee State Park to Table Rock State Park. Along the way hikers will visit Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina’s highest peak, the Cantrell home site, the massive granitic dome at Table Rock, and the cliffs and ledges atop Pinnacle Mountain that contain petroglyphs believed to have been made by ancient Native Americans.

Pine Mountain Trail: Although the Pine Mountain Trail currently ranks as only the 11th longest trail in the southeast right now, I included it here because it will move up to number 10 once the trail is finished. Once completed, the long distance trail designed for backpacking and hiking will span approximately 120 miles from Breaks Inter­state Park, to Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, and will pass through several natural areas such as Bad Branch State Nature Preserve, Kingdom Come State Park and Blanton Forest along the Pine Mountain range in eastern Kentucky. Currently, 44 miles of hiking trails are open.

By: Jeff

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hike To Myrtle Point Via Rainbow Falls / Mt.LeConte

Trail Description:
If you're trying to decide which trail to take to Mount LeConte: the Rainbow Falls Trail or Bullhead, I would recommend taking the Bullhead Trail because of the views along the way, (unless, of course, you specifically want to see Rainbow Falls). However, because the Rainbow Falls Trail is less exposed than Bullhead, the Rainbow Falls Trail might be a little cooler in the summer as you ascend to the summit of Mount LeConte. 
If you were doing a loop hike, especially during the summer, I would definitely hike up Rainbow Falls Trail and then descend via Bullhead.
The trail begins at the southwest corner of the parking lot. For the first two-thirds of a mile you'll climb steadily over a boulder-strewn pathway, while LeConte Creek cascades down the mountain on your right. There are many opportunities for some great picnic sites along this section of the trail.

The trail crosses over two footbridges, one at 1.7 miles, and the other at 2.4 miles, before reaching the 80-foot high waterfalls at 2.7 miles. Rainbow Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies. It receives its name from the rainbow that's produced by mist and becomes visible on sunny afternoons. During extended winter cold spells, an impressive ice formation builds around the falls. You may notice a little bit of ice just to the right of the falls in the picture on the left.
To continue on to Mt. LeConte, cross the footbridge at Rainbow Falls. Over the next 3.2 miles you'll climb more than 1700 feet before reaching the Bullhead Trail junction. This section of trail will take you past rhododendron, sand myrtle and mountain laurel that offer hikers beautiful mountain blooms during the spring.
At 5.4 miles, you'll arrive at a side trail, which loops back to the main trail after a short distance. The loop leads to Rocky Spur, an outcropping of rocks that offers nice views of the valley below.
At just under 6 miles from the trailhead you'll reach the Bullhead Trail junction. Turn left to continue on to the summit of Mount LeConte.
In another 0.4 miles you'll reach the Alum Cave Trail, which forks in from the right. At this point you'll have your first views of the LeConte Lodge.
A lot people end their hike at the lodge, however, to reach the true summit of Mount LeConte, you still need to walk almost another half-mile.
Before reaching the top of the mountain, the Trillium Gap Trail will branch off to your left at 6.6 miles. The summit, better known as High Top, will be at 6.9 miles. You'll know you've reached the highest point on Mt. LeConte when you've reached the cairn, or pile of rocks, just off the main trail on the right.Then one of the most incredible views in The Great Smoky Mountains is only .09 of a mile away called Myrtle Point . Believe me this is well worth the extra mile !

At 6593 feet, Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smokies. However, measured from its immediate base to its highest point, Mt. LeConte can be considered the tallest mountain in the Eastern United States, rising 5301 feet from its base near Gatlinburg.

There is considerable controversy over which member of the LeConte family the mountain was named for. Most people, including the USGS, assume that Joseph LeConte, the famous geologist and charter member of the Sierra Club, is the man for whom the mountain was named. However, that claim has been challenged in recent years. The authors of A Natural History of Mount Le Conte, and the Georgia Encyclopedia, both claim the name honors Joseph's older brother, John, who was famous as a scientist and as president of the University of California, at Berkeley.
Unfortunately you won't have any vistas up at High Top. However, there are two places on the mountain that do afford outstanding panoramic views.

One is at Myrtle Point. 
To get to Myrtle Point you'll need to walk another 0.4 miles by continuing on the main trail, which has now turned into the Boulevard Trail. Roughly 0.2 miles from High Top, take the fork off the right side of the trail. Myrtle Point is another 0.2 miles from this junction. This vantage point provides nearly 360 degree views, and is the best location for sunrises on Mt. LeConte

The other place to go for outstanding views is known as Cliff Top, which is near the LeConte Lodge. You will have passed two side trails to Cliff Top, on your right, as you made your way up to High Top. Cliff Top is the best location for sunset views.  
One of the unique things about the hike up to Mount LeConte is the lodge and overnight cabins at the top. Hikers have the option of spending the night in the historic cabins which can accommodate about 50 guests a night (you will need reservations well in advance). For more information, visit the LeConte Lodge website.

The idea for the lodge was created when Paul Adams, an enthusiastic hiker and explorer, led an expedition up the mountain with some dignitaries from Washington D.C. to show them the rugged beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, and to help promote the cause for the creation of a national park. The group spent the night in a large tent. The following year Adams built a cabin on that same spot, which eventually led to the establishment of the LeConte Lodge.   

 Adams is also credited with blazing the trail from Alum Cave up to the summit of Mount LeConte.

Hiking up Rainbow Falls Trail to Mt.LeConte and on to Myrtle Point 

Have always loved the log bridge crossings while hiking in the GSMNP 

Rainbow Falls water was very low this time up due to lack of rain fall early in the year

Rhododendron blooms still fresh with the morning dew     

The famous Mt.LeConte Dining Room with date and elevation

A beautiful view on the way to Myrtle Point just pass Mt.LeConte Lodge

Actual highest point of Mt.LeConte 

This is my hiking buddy Atti at Myrtle Point enjoying the view .... lol

Breath taking views from Myrtle Point

Another breath taking view from Myrtle Point